KINGMAN - Three hours, 19 people, seven vehicles and two chickens later, U.S. Customs and Border agents from the Blythe/Yuma office wrapped up a Wednesday morning operation in the Kingman area.
Residents can expect to see more of the white and green vehicles in the future, said CBP Public Information Officer Laura Boston. The operation is part of a larger effort to stop illegal immigrants from moving deeper into the country.
The department has cracked down on traditional routes into the county along Interstates 10 and 8 in Arizona, she said. Illegal immigrants and their smugglers are now looking for alternative routes.
"The pressure is on and they're being forced up Interstate 40," Boston said. I-40, U.S. 93 and Highway 68 all offer alternative routes to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, two major areas illegal immigrants are trying to reach, she said.
Wednesday's operation included around 20 officers, several patrol vehicles, a K-9 officer and several vans to transport those arrested on suspicion of being illegal immigrants.
One hour into the operation, officers had taken into custody around seven people and confiscated four vehicles along West Beale Street, one of which had two live chickens in the trunk. Kingman Animal Control was called in to take custody of the chickens.
"This is the first time I've seen chickens," Boston said.
"We look for suspicious behavior," she said, which can be a number of things, like irregular driving, a vehicle that may have only one person but is heavily loaded down, vehicles that try to avoid the officers by suddenly exiting the freeway or changing lanes, or drivers who try to avoid looking at an officer after they've been pulled over.
People who are pulled over and arrested on suspicion of being illegal immigrants are taken into custody and placed in the back Their vehicles are usually confiscated, however, their clothing and personal items usually follow them to Blythe, where they see an immigration judge, who determines if they will be deported. Repeat offenders may receive jail sentences before they are deported, she said.
Boston declined giving out information on how frequently CBP agents would be in the area in the future.
"We plan to be in and out of the area on a more frequent basis," she said.
They also plan to be out at all hours, including at night, she said.